Texas Property Owners Seemingly Have No Choice When the Pipelines Roll Through

Eminent domain has always been an issue for property owners across the country. In Texas, it is not uncommon for the government to use eminent domain to acquire private property for public use, such as railroads, bridges, highways and public utilities. But it is not common for non-government entities, such as commercial enterprises, to be able to take advantage of landowners.

In the state of Texas, that no longer appears to be the case. The TransCanada pipeline company has found loop holes in Texas law that allows the company to use eminent domain virtually unfettered – and take land from private citizens to extend the company’s own pipeline.

the purposes of the TransCanada pipeline indicate otherwise. One such incident illustrating this abuse of power involved landowner Julia Trigg Crawford.

As reported by the Texas Observer, Ms. Crawford refused TransCanada access to her property for a number of reasons, including because she was concerned about damage to her property and ongoing environmental pollution. After she refused the pipeline company’s offer, it applied to seize her property and won – without even going to court.

Crawford’s situation is not unique. And perhaps even more problematic is the fact that if property owners want to fight the pipeline company’s eminent domain claims, they have to prove otherwise in court. That is, the burden of the proof lies on the property owner – which is contrary to most of the rights that we have as individuals.

Should a company from Canada be allowed to come through the state of Texas and seize private property using the police power of government? Where should the line be drawn?